Amazon Channels Coming to Canada, Broadcasters Tell Government It’s a ‘Threat’: Report

Amazon channels

Amazon is planning to launch Prime Video Channels in Canada, as revealed in a government memo last fall, obtained by The Logic:

“Amazon Channels is currently in discussion with several Canadian media companies in a bid to acquire programming rights and is expected to launch in Canada in the near future,” according to a November 2018 report prepared for Hélène Laurendeau, deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, and obtained via an access-to-information request. The report was based on department officials’ meetings with broadcasters and digital media companies in September and October of that year. It did not specify a timeline for the launch.

Amazon Channels is an online interface available on all devices, geared towards ‘cord cutters’ and is currently available in the U.S., which offers Prime subscribers the ability to access a variety of streaming services within Prime Video.

Currently, over 150 channels are available to U.S. subscribers include the likes of HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, PBS Kids and more. Currently in Canada, Bell Media holds exclusive rights to HBO, Showtime and Starz, so these won’t be on Amazon unless the latter is able to wrestle and win rights when the current agreement expires.

Users will pay various monthly charges per service, but get access to them within Amazon Channels. The service is also available in Austria, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Canadian broadcasters noted in the November 2018 memo, Amazon Channels would be an “existential threat to the regulatory system.”

“Several stakeholders said that the arrival of virtual BDUs, particularly Amazon Channels, is going to be even more disruptive to the Canadian broadcasting system than foreign streaming services,” noted the Canadian Heritage memo.

“One stakeholder expressed concern that any nascent Canadian virtual BDUs will be forced out of business because they will not have the offering to compete with a company like Amazon,” said another part of the note.

Other Amazon Channels concerns from broadcasters cited included the potential demise of CRTC regulatory system, specifically the $25 entry ‘skinny basic’ TV package and ‘pick and pay’ cable TV channel policies.

Bell responded to The Logic to say they welcomed competition, while Rogers touted its Ignite TV platform, noting Amazon Prime Video would be available soon on the service.